divorce in the Philippines

[Free to Disagree] Married advocates of divorce

Sylvia Estrada Claudio

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[Free to Disagree] Married advocates of divorce
Take your spouse by the hand and join us as we advocate for the passage of the divorce bill

I wish to announce a momentous event, the founding of the organization (really happily, reasonably happily, tolerably happily) Married Advocates of Divorce (MAD) .

Because it is destined  to be an organization of great importance within a transformational social movement, I will place on record that it was founded at 12 noon on May 31, 2024. I know the time  and place  because I brought it up during a meeting of one my feminist coalitions. This was a small working group meeting.  Thus I only had three co-founding members in a group of 10 people.

But coalition work immediately began because we got instant support from someone who previously had a happy partnership and someone in a long distance marriage. I must say that in the two days since its founding, it has grown because I had another meeting that day and a lunch with friends. Other allies include widows and widowers, the happily single, people happily planning their marriages, children of happy marriages and people happily seeking someone to marry. I expect we will begin to have national scope because of this column.

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Let me now discuss our founding principles:

  • Just because it’s right for you doesn’t mean you should impose it on everyone. 
  • Those of us who really know what it is like to raise children and keep a family together believe that being “conservative”  has nothing to do with it. Indeed we see some values touted as conservative as being inimical to family well-being.

Take for example the conservative value that marriage is sacred and that one partner, often the woman, should just put up with being beaten regularly just to keep the marriage intact. It has been shown that this is detrimental to the well-being of all, including the children.

  • We uphold religious freedom and secularism as enshrined in our Constitution. 

Anyone who is happily married knows two things about married life. The first  is that you follow the agreements you made during marriage, for example, to love and cherish. Yes, I purposely omitted the “obey” part. If I could have had my way it would be “love, cherish and proceed with consent and cooperation”. But I digress. Second, one must accept differences between yourself and your partner, yourselves and your children.

The same can be said about respectful differences with Catholics and the Catholic Church. Some of us who are Catholic believe in divorce and some of us are not Catholic. Respecting such differences is enshrined in our contract called the Constitution. Respecting differences and religious freedom is as crucial to national amity as it is to marital unity. We happily married people do not take pleasure in having to remind our senators about the Constitution they swore to uphold and basic facts about religious diversity in Philippine society. But then those of us who have been happily married for decades understand that our lawmakers, like our partners, can be quite forgetful and may need some gentle reminding. Gentle reminding about the Constitution, gentle reminding that allowing for divorce shows us you really understand what a good marriage is all about.

  • You don’t play the game, you can’t make the rules. I refer here to certain religions whose priests do not marry but who, for some reason, are the most vociferously against divorce.
  • Those of us who are truly happily married (tolerably happily married, married happily enough) know that some external force, like the law, is not the reason we endure. We need no laws to justify our companionship nor does a law underpin our continuing faith in our bonds. We are blushing now,  but I guess we are just real romantics this way.

Being very new, we are on a recruitment drive. So let me tell the reader what benefits can be attained by members.

  • You can assert your nationalism. With this law, the Philippines will join the rest of the entire world that has divorce laws.
  • You can practice compassion and humility. So we know we are happily married and it’s a great thing. But there’s no need to be smug about it! Many wonderful people who may be superior to us have failed relationships through no fault of their own. Regardless of fault, everyone has the right to be as happy (reasonably happy, tolerably happy) as we are. Also you will open your hearts to the growing number of people who are in abusive marriages. You need not deny their plight and make circuitous apologetics when this is brought up.
  • You can tout your democracy credentials. Recent surveys show that around 50% of Filipinos support some form of divorce, making choice, not prohibition, the best way to approach the issue.
  • You can engage with us in spurious speculation during our coffee breaks. We admit to a certain amount of pettiness. It’s how we handle our frustration over idiotic arguments. We assert that being snarky against public figures whom we oppose is a better way of coping than beating up on our spouses. So, we speculate that those who are against divorce are just truly afraid that when a law comes into effect many of their spouses will be heading for the door. After all, how many of those who are against divorce are known to have had numerous affairs, beat their wives, neglect their children, etc.
  • You are immediately welcomed by women’s rights advocates. Because most abuse, neglect and domination in marriage happens to women, because our current family laws put women at a disadvantage in marriage, the divorce bill counts as a gender equity bill.
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  • Attend our regular meetings wearing your best snark suits. (See number 4 in the benefits section.)
  • Say negative things against anti-divorce legislators and positive things about pro-divorce legislators.
  • You know who you should vote for and against, right?
  • Recruit other happily married couples.
  • Be romantic as always. You are allowed to blush while fulfilling this duty.
Join us!

If you are inclined to join, I am serious. We are indeed in organizational meetings and planning sessions. So do wait for further announcements. Let’s test the resolve of these anti-divorce lawmakers. Perhaps they are still open to political pressure. Perhaps they do have the compassion and humility we espouse and can change their stance. Also, may I remind those who stood up against the reproductive health bill before that they lost that battle. They took a hit because of the very same anti-women and anti-secular arguments they are making now. They also resorted to similar sneaky technicalities like what they are doing to stop transmission of the approved House version to the Senate.

As for the Senate, I put on notice a certain senator who said he opposes the bill because he is like an American conservative. As we in MAD (happily MAD, tolerably MAD) have argued, conservatism of that type isn’t really pro-family. Also that certain denator might want to do a little research and see what Ronald Reagan thought of divorce. As for another senator who said she is against divorce because she is happily married, she might look at MAD’s number one principle above.

So be on the side of history. On the side of the hip, the cool, the fun-loving, the stable and enduring, the romantic. Take your spouse by the hand and join us as we advocate for the passage of the divorce bill. – Rappler.com

Sylvia Estrada Claudio is a doctor of medicine who also has a PhD in psychology. She is professor emerita of the University of the Philippines, Diliman.

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